The drop in the number of schools also contributes to mass immigration in Hong Kong
HONG KONG – Long before the start of the school year, Chim Hoon-ming, a primary school principal in Hong Kong, realized there would be fewer students this year. Birth rates in the city have been declining, and families are becoming increasingly frustrated due to the severe restrictions of the epidemic and political turmoil in Hong Kong.
He wasn’t even prepared for the extent of the exodus. When classes began in his district on the west of Hong Kong Island last month, first-grade classes were 10 per cent fewer than the year before – a drop of more than 100 students.
“That decline came very quickly,” Kim said.
When Hong Kong was plunged into two years of turmoil, between the epidemic and all-out political repression from Beijing, many consequences immediately followed. Businesses closed, politicians arrested and tourists disappeared. The focus began on one fundamental change: the insistence of some residents that the city was no longer where they wanted to raise their children.
Hong Kong’s population fell 1.2 percent last year, the largest decline since the start of the government, which began keeping records in the 1960s. In July 2020, when China passed the National Security Law, more than 89,000 people had left the city, 7.5 million by the following July. temporary government data.
The number is likely to grow. Whenever the government updates its initial data for the past two years, the number of residents leaving has doubled.
Officials did not say how many students have left. However, they did provide at least one measure: Hong Kong’s primary schools will have 64 fewer classes this year than last year, according to statistics released by the Board of Education late last month after the annual number of pupils.
The numbers seem to confirm the trend educators have been warning about for months. Survey in May by the city’s largest teachers union is found More than 20 students dropped out in 30 percent of the primary schools surveyed. (Union pro-democracy, Recently resolved under government pressure). Find out another poll conducted by the pro-Beijing federation in March 90% of kindergarten Students lost, with more than half of school heads citing relocation as one reason.
Officials say the rate has since accelerated, with some losing as much as 15 percent of their students after the summer of immigration. While several first-degree cuts were planned for the spring, the presidency ordered 15 more cuts after the September census.
“They would prefer their children to have more freedom of expression and a more balanced education,” said John Ho, an immigration consultant. Mr. Hu said his business resumed after the adoption of the security law and that families with children made up about 70 percent of clients.
Population displacement has affected society. Hong Kong He has already faced a shortage of doctorsAnd in the 12 months that ended in August, 4.9 percent of general hospital doctors and 6.7 percent of nurses ended up leaving, and many of them immigrated, according to the hospital’s chief of staff. Hong Kong residents pulled $270 million from the city’s mandatory retirement plan between April and June The largest amount in at least seven yearsGovernment statistics show this.
The field of education is a victim and a driving force to leave.
Earlier this school year officials They promised to instill obedience Through the “national education” modeled on mainland China. Subjects as diverse as geography and biology should include a course on national security. Kindergarten You will learn the crimes According to the security law. Teachers accused of sharing disruptive ideas may be fired.
Ann Sze, the school’s teaching assistant, learned about the changes in March, during a staff meeting. Ms. Sze, 46, said the principal described how all the other topics would include lessons about love for China.
Until then, Ms. Sze, disillusioned with the political climate in Hong Kong, had taken the initial steps toward immigration, but had no concrete plans. But after that meeting, her two sons, 8 and 11, imagined a similar “brainwashing” operation, as she called it.
She and her husband rushed Special visas offered by Britain to Hong Kong residents Response to security law. They left in August.
“If I hadn’t had children,” she said, “I wouldn’t have seen the urgent matters.” But “the education system is not what it used to be. This is the main reason I have to leave.”
Government officials sidestepped fears of mass exodus and noted that Hong Kong has always been an international city with a temporary population. But they also admitted to hitting schools. Kevin Young, The city’s education minister said last month that “the truth” is that “many people are choosing to leave Hong Kong”.
The changes were perhaps most evident at Hong Kong’s most famous educational institutions, where families mingled with opportunities to leave.
In the past, much of Juliana Yao’s work involved the use of needles at admission offices at elite international schools in Hong Kong. Ms. Yao, founder of Ampla Education, an admissions counseling service, might ask if they have any vacancies or how long the waiting list is.
Recently, investigations have been moving in a different direction. Is there any customer interested in logging in?
“It’s completely different now,” Ms. Yao said. “A wave of students left for the UK last year.”
This wave has also affected the bond market, payments that parents can pay to international schools to get priority in the overall admissions process. Some schools limit the number of bonds offered, creating a secondary market with sometimes astronomical values.
Still astronomical – but a little less. According to KC Consultants Limited, a company that trades in used bonds, the bonds of a popular school, Shanghai Victoria Academy, came in at about $640,000 per student in 2019. They are now available for about $510,000 apiece.
Mass transit is not limited to expensive international schools. Last month, the pro-Beijing Teachers’ Union, which represents many teachers in local schools, petition to the government To freeze the appointment of teachers. She referred to “the panic of the education sector” in connection with the “serious crisis of class reduction.”
Immigration consultant Hu Jintao said the new special visa trip to Britain could attract families who normally cannot travel abroad. He said many Hong Kong residents have historically used investment visas, which could require millions of dollars in assets. The new route only required the arrivals to be able to survive for six months.
“I think this is a common problem for parents: If they had the financial means to move abroad, I think they would,” Hu said.
Hong Kong also experienced a wave of departures in the years leading up to 1997, when Britain returned control of the territory to China.
But many of these immigrants were wealthy residents who obtained foreign passports as “insurance” against communist rule, often traveling to Hong Kong. Many eventually came back full time.
The new immigration routes have stricter residency requirements, Hu said, raising the possibility that the current departure will be permanent.
School administrators had difficulty recruiting students from other schools in the city. Deon Chen, the principal of a high school that lost about 50 of 1,000 students last year, said he filled about half of those vacancies.
He also focused on intangible work to support the remaining students. His school offered more check-ins with students and returned small gifts to the school, in part because principals feared the emotional toll of those whose friends had left.
Mr. Chen noted that more departures are likely to come, especially as the epidemic subsides and travel restrictions are lifted.
“I don’t think it’s the bottom of the valley yet,” he said.
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